Beyond Blueprints With Gowri Adappa: On The Confluence Of South Indian Design And Contemporary Aesthetics

Gowri Adappa’s profile photo taken in the A Design Co. 's office

Gowri Adappa’s profile photo taken in the A Design Co. 's office. Image credit: Phosart Studio.

Gowri Adappa is an architect and interior designer inspired by South Asian aesthetics. A partner and co-founder of A Design Co. based out of Chennai, India. Her design studio firmly builds in infusing heritage and hints of local craftsmanship with contemporary design. Her love for sourcing unique pieces has resulted in a network of vendors in India and abroad that are unique to her projects. Gowri has collaborated with leading brands, photographers, and ad agencies on styling and space makeovers alongside individual clients. A genius with trad-mod styling, she talks about her influences and design approach and even spills some sourcing tips. 


A common practice is to make sure that the space has the appearance of being built with time, which helps it stay relevant. A crucial factor is weaving in stories of India; with Beyond Blueprints, we ask her how she designs specifically for South India.


The Artisanal House is nestled within a high-rise complex that offers captivating views of the Adyar River in the heart of Madras. Image credit: Phosart Studio



1. How would you describe your aesthetics and design style?


In one word: India Modern. I like to juxtapose the workmanship of local artisans and craftsmen in contemporary and modern spaces. This isn’t always the case with my projects; sometimes, I also get to work with a space built in the past. With these, I try to retain the core of the space while introducing modern elements to make the space shine. I would say we at A Design Co. create spaces that are timeless with materials that complement the built environment without compromising the integrity of the client’s needs. We tend to be size and typology-agnostic and purely engage with clients whose main driving force is design. 


“I engage with local artisans–whose art forms are slowly disappearing– making it possible to provide more opportunities to keep their craft going, and that’s what I feel is the need of the hour,” says Gowri Adappa



2. Can you list some of your favourite places to source traditional collectables? We Would also love some tips on the best way to find traditional wares. 


We always make sure we use local products and craftsmen to weave the story of Madras within our projects, so we get artisans and craftsmen from Pondicherry to do our cement finishes, handmade tiles, and millwork, among other things. In terms of decor stores, some of our favourites are: HeritageBlend The Studio, Souk and Soul, The Purple Turtles, Cape Kamoryn, and Atelier Lumys for custom lights. I also want to add Mahendra Doshi, Taherallys, and Phillips Antiques for some Art Deco gems! 



3. What, according to you, is the greatest discovery you’ve made in the history of art and design so far?  


I’ve learned that design transcends time. We don’t gravitate towards trends, and our goal is always to make the spaces we design exude timelessness. Homes that age and wear well with time are also incredibly popular among our clients, even 10 years into living in that space! 


In Colombo, the Courtyard House harmoniously combines the Indian and Sri Lankan roots of its homeowners. Image credit: Banuka Vithanage



4. What or who would you say has influenced your design the most? 


I take a lot of inspiration from Sri Lanka, especially in terms of architecture. The revered master architect Geoffrey Bawa has been a significant source of inspiration for me. His simplicity and sheer genius in the use of materials and space planning is something I strive to achieve. In terms of furniture and decor, I love using Mid-century modern and Art Deco elements as they are timeless and work beautifully in Indian homes. 



5. What is something Indian design needs to eliminate?


Replicating Pinterest boards from the West rarely works in our country. The weather, environment, and the use of space work very differently in South Asia. I encourage homeowners and designers to be conscious of the environment and context when designing or styling a space. 



6. Tell us about 5 memorable pieces you have sourced or acquired recently for yourself or a client.


I think the most memorable ones would be the objects that were passed on to me by my parents and family; for example, my grandfather’s letter box filled with letters exchanged between my grandparents, a vintage rug from Turkey or the etagere in my bar nook from a corner shop in England are a few that come to mind. The fifth one would be a Newton Francis Souza painting I recently purchased for my growing art collection.



7. What are some ways you incorporate sustainability into your practice? 


At A Design Co., we have engaged with the larger community and the city of Chennai through commissioned and self-initiated projects. We have partnered with ITDP India and the Corporation of Chennai on the 722 BRR (Pedestrianization project) and are currently anchoring an initiative to create a toolkit for citizen-led improvement of neighbourhood parks. These are just a few examples; moving forward, we would like to continue keeping our projects sustainable when it comes to sourcing and working with local environments. 


In London, the Town House, a 1930s Victorian property, is extended and refurbished for a couple from Madras now living in England for two decades. Image credit: Taran Wilkhu



8.  How important is cultural diversity in your design philosophy? Can you share an instance where you drew inspiration from a specific culture to create a unique piece?


While designing, we don’t like to start with a particular theme in mind; we design homes where you cannot pinpoint a specific style or time period. A common practice is to make sure that the space has the appearance of being built with time, which helps it stay relevant. A crucial factor is weaving in stories of India, specifically South India, without it being too on the nose. This could be through a colour palette, an antique piece to break the silence in an otherwise quiet room or art by an up-and-coming local artist. 


“The keystone and driving inspiration is our collaborative process between the client, designer, and tradesmen.”


Dipped in rich shades of colonial elements and matte black is the Brick House in London. Image credit: Taran Wilkhu



9. As a designer, how do you approach the challenge of incorporating cutting-edge technology into your work without sacrificing the timeless appeal of your designs?


We like the rawness and patina that natural materials and finishes bring– it’s a distinguished feature of our projects. We also want to make sure our local craftsmen don’t lose their jobs when we bring in technology that replaces the variable finish that they bring. That being said, we do acknowledge the need for technology and use it when it comes to the timelines and efficiency of certain elements. So, a healthy balance of traditional style that effectively compliments the use of technology. 



10. What valuable lessons have you learned about the intersection of business and design?


We restrict the number of projects we take for various reasons– the design-centred approach, an iterative process and our desire to work with clients who are design-driven. We also take on a limited number of projects, so those projects become our priority. I do want to add that the desire to be financially independent has been a huge motivator in my work. So, I strike a balance between the design aesthetics I bring to the table and my design expertise. I would never compromise design at the cost of business. I am an intuitive designer (and entrepreneur) and lead my practice based on what I feel is right and fair to all parties involved. And the rest automatically plays itself out for the better.

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9th floor, Birla Centurion, Century Mills Compound, Pandurang Budhkar Marg, Worli, Mumbai– 400030, Maharashtra, India. 

Registered Office:
Birlagram, Nagda- 456 331 (M.P.) Tel: (07366) 246760-66, Fax: (07366) 244114, 246024, CIN: L17124MP1947PLC000410  

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Call: 1800 120 1234, Monday to Saturday, 09:30 am – 6:30 pm (Except Public Holidays).


Product Warranty

Terms and Conditions for product warranty registration of Birla Opus products

  1. The Warranty shall be effective from the date of purchase of the Product as per the tax invoice (“Warranty Start Date”), provided that painting work is fully complete, and the Consumer registers the Product for warranty.

  2. The Product must be registered within 15 days from the date of purchase by calling customer care at 18001201234 or registering on and furnishing purchase details as required during the Warranty registration.

  3. The Warranty shall be valid for parameters and period as defined in the respective product warranty document (‘Warranty Period’) from the Warranty Start Date. 

  4. Upon settlement of any claim, Warranty of replaced Product will not start afresh, and will continue for the remainder of the Warranty Period from the Warranty Start Date.

  5. If there is a break/ lag in completing the painting work, the registration of the Warranty and Warranty Start Date will be determined by the Company at its sole discretion.

  6. The Company may appoint a person to examine and confirm the application of the Product as per the directions specified prior to registering the Warranty.

  7. For registering of Warranty, where quantity of Product purchase is equal to or more than 200 litres, please call our Helpline on 1800 120 1234 with requisite details. The registration of Warranty in such cases is subject to a satisfactory pre‐inspection at site by Company’s representative.

  8. For the warranty to be applicable:
    1. Minimum volume of the product required to be purchased needs to be met
    2. Birla Opus recommended system needs to be used
    3. Product coverage and application guidelines need to be adhered

For more details, please refer to respective  product specific warranty document and product information sheet.

  1. Consumer may raise a claim within 30 days of discovering issue(s) noticed on the affected areas based on Warranty Parameters/ scope

  2. The Consumer is required to notify the Company of the issue(s) noticed along with the invoice details, sample pictures and basis for Warranty invocation by contacting the customer care at 1800 120 1234. The Consumer shall provide such additional details as required by the Company and/or allow the Company to visit/inspect the painting site either in portion or entirety at the Company’s discretion.  

  3. In case where the Company decides that the Warranty is applicable on the issue(s) noticed on the affected areas, the Company shall bear the Replacements Costs as detailed in respective product warranty document to repair/ repaint the affected areas.

  4. Replacement Costs shall mean the cost of material and labour required to correct the affected portions, as determined by the Company.

  5. In case where the Company decides that Warranty is not applicable, the same shall be communicated to the Consumer.

  6. Warranty is applicable only to the affected area where the Product is used in accordance with application guidelines and not to the rest of the areas.

  7. In case the Consumer carries out repair works on the areas covered under the Warranty, the same shall be at their own risk and the Company’s Warranty on the Product shall not be valid on such repaired areas.

  8. The Warranty will cover only manufacturing defects of the Product and will not cover any defects arising out of factors not in control of the Company. For more details of exclusions, please refer to the warranty document of respective product. 

  9. Except expressly stated, the Company disclaims any liabilities whether in contract, tort or otherwise. The Company makes no warranty regarding merchantability or fitness of products for any particular purpose. 

  10. The Company shall not be held liable towards loss or damages of incidental, indirect or consequential nature or for any value more than the tax invoice value. 

  11. In case of any disputes, exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of Mumbai shall apply. Governing laws shall be Laws of India.

  12. The facts and all matters concerning any Warranty/ claim/ dispute will always be kept confidential by both the Consumer and the Company.